Scotland (and come Yes or No on September the 18th) is an extraordinary country. I’m not going to reel off statistics. You only have to drive through the Highlands and if you’re lucky enough not to be travelling through a grey cloud, the subtlety of the colour variations on view is quite sublime. I couldn’t help being reminded of Wendy Hillier’s railway journey to Scotland in Powell and Pressburger’s wonderful I Know Where I’m Going. Powell put tartan over the mountains as her train crossed the border…
We visited Glamis castle, a name familiar to anyone who’s studied Macbeth (apologies, ‘the Scottish play’) and there are a few curios housed in the Queen Mother’s childhood home which warrant a paragraph or two. First off is this painting (come back soon…) It would have cost me no small sum to post it on my page so have a quick look via this:
When you first see this picture, all sorts of strange thoughts swirl around in your head (how the man managed to have children for a start) but it’s actual body armour which the then Earl of Strathmore really loved to wear. And there is more than one painting with him wearing it.
Secondly, in the chapel of the castle (yes, castles had their own chapels), there are many artworks and without doubt the most famous of these is this one (this is just a part of the whole). You may think that this is nothing special pausing to remind yourself not to give it another thought. But this is an image the like of which you’ll not see in any art gallery. I’ve Googled unsuccessfully to see if there are others but this is the only one of its kind I can find.
It’s not special for being a man with a hat. It’s unique for being a particular man with a hat whose usual headgear is depicted in art from down the centuries as a little more painful. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Jesus in a hat and I could not understand why it exerted so much fascination until I remembered my time in Rio, in Brazil.
I was attending Brazil’s Children’s Film Festival as a visiting director and was assigned a lovely guide who did all the tourist things with me (almost all photos of that wonderful trip featuring yours truly show enormous grins on my face relishing how bloody fortunate I was to have the chance to attend the festival). Well, Giant Jesus is an obvious tourist destination and we made our way up the rickety railway being thoroughly entertained by an ‘in carriage’ samba band. Giant Jesus, whatever your religion or lack thereof is still pretty impressive. I know how easy it is to fake photos these days but take my word for it, I’m actually there. So what do we find at the base of Giant Jesus?
A church, naturally. I mean, why travel all that way to marvel at Giant Jesus and not have a bit of an old pray roughly underneath his plinth. By the way, ‘Giant Jesus’ has a real name (Christ The Redeemer) but whenever I hear that name I start singing “I’m in love, ooooooo, Christ The Redeemer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried…” which of course is the Monkees and we all know how religion fared once monkeys entered the argument. I digress.
So, there’s a church at the back of his plinth and just to make the experience complete, I decided to wander in. But there was a guard, a lady with a fairly soul-crushing job. Her entire professional life was stopping people from entering the church. Why? Because no one was allowed in to the church (are you still with me?) wearing a hat.
In retrospect I would love to take her to Glamis castle. But part of her had to understand irony given the tea cosy that was perched on her own head…